My 2 Sense

When I woke up from my suicide attempt, I had only one thought — “I can’t do this again.” I wish I could say there was some identifiable process that led me away from suicide, but for me a switch was simply turned off. I feel incredibly fortunate in that regard; I know that for so many others the way back from suicidal ideation is a long and difficult one that you struggle through for some time. I just thought that if I were going to live, then I would have to do things to fix my life.

Slowly and steadily, I put my life in order. I found great comfort in totemism; Kangaroo, for me, taught me how to be comfortable with few things and sparse connections, how to be an emotional nomad. I got a full-time job at a (terrible) convenience store, then landed my dream job at a used bookstore. I got heavily involved in my local furry community. I was an avid tabletop gamer and LARPer. Over time, I found my tribe and together we formed a strong identity. I belonged somewhere.

Even my rocky relationship with 2 got better. My roommate eventually moved to a trailer park a ways out of town, and it was more and more difficult to get to work without a car. I started staying at 2’s place more often, and eventually moved back in. We weren’t in a relationship anymore, but we rebuilt a close and comfortable friendship. We knew each other well and had an easy, amiable rapport.

He came up with the idea of 2 Sense and invited me to be a co-host for it, and I jumped at the chance to work with him. He was getting into spoken word essays and the like, and no one had thought of a fandom-specific “radio show” before. (Maybe they had, and they were already out there, but I don’t remember hearing about them at the time.) I came in, chatted with him about whatever came to mind for 90 minutes or so, and he edited and mixed the conversation. We put it up, and that was it.

People responded to it, and we developed a following. No lie, it felt pretty good to be a part of it. We were doing something that people liked, and there was this whole community of people that formed around it. When people started to write in with their own news or to ask for advice, it made me feel more connected to the broader furry community. One of my absolute favorite things is giving advice to folks with problems. Few things make me feel more consistently like I’m fulfilling my purpose than helping to relieve someone’s burden.

A lot of 2’s opinions that I so strongly disagree with were there, in hindsight. He always disliked pride parades. He encouraged a closeted teen to remain closeted if they knew their parents wouldn’t approve. He had a tendency to advocate “tough love” positions, where people should suck it up and deal with things they didn’t like until they were in a position to handle the consequences of doing something about it. I disagreed with him then, but the difference of opinion never felt malicious. He saw the world differently than I did, and I thought between us we could come up with advice that would help people one way or another.

Over time, as 2 did more stand-up and got more and more recognized, the tone of his relationship with people changed. He was less considerate of what they thought, he tore down their ideas a bit more eagerly. I noticed that a lot of people were never really sure where they stood with him, and he tended to do one thing and say another. I know that this is personal, anecdotal evidence and as such pretty much amounts to “my word vs. his”. I’m including it because this has been my experience with 2, and it contributes to my idea about his relationship with his audience.

One day, it was discovered that some news we had reported as submitted by a listener turned out not to be true. I thought we should address it and do our best to verify news items when they came in before going to air with them and I told him so. He disagreed; he thought it wasn’t our responsibility. If our audience was misled by false information, it was their fault for not verifying the things we said.

I couldn’t come up with a counter-argument for that stance back then, but it sat deeply wrong with me. I didn’t like the idea of reporting whatever we were sent without checking to see if it was true. I would still feel responsible if we said something, someone did something based on that information, and it turned out to be false. I just didn’t want to have someone act on bad data or ideas. But this was 2’s show, and he was going to run it the way he saw fit. That meant I couldn’t be a part of it any more. I left 2 Sense a short time later.

Since then everything I’ve seen 2 say has been filtered through that lens. He genuinely doesn’t believe that he should be responsible for the things he says; any negative consequences that come from it are entirely the fault of the people listening. If someone gets upset with something he says, they should just stop listening and get over it. He should say whatever he wants, and he should be free from whatever the fallout from that is.

Human interaction simply doesn’t work that way. We are a social, emotional species. We have the most sophisticated communication system on the planet because we are intensely concerned with not only transmitting information, but connecting through shared experience and emotions. In order to properly receive what people are throwing out, we need to be affected by it. Emotions aren’t something that can just be turned off; they’re a part of our wiring. We may learn to control them, but we’re never going to be able to simply not have them. Having an emotional response to the people around us is part of what makes us human. It’s empathy.

But here’s the thing; I think 2 on some level understands that his words have impact. He’s glad to accept praise for his stand-up and rants. He responds very well when someone agrees with him. When he dismisses the people who criticize him as “haters,” it’s totally fine for someone else to absorb that sentiment and reinforce it.

He cannot have it both ways; he cannot choose to recognize the positive effect of his words on some and dismiss or trivialize the negative effect it has on others. Communication is never going to be a perfect way to connect our thoughts, ideas and emotions to other people, but anyone who is serious about speaking — especially in a public forum — needs to understand that their words will have an effect (whether he thinks they should or not) and be careful about making sure those effects are as positive as he can make them.

I know that 2 is smart enough to understand this. He’s very good at deflecting criticism in ways that take the conversation away from the substance of people’s issues with him. I’ve seen him characterize opposing viewpoints as a straw man, attacking a logical extreme of that opinion and forcing others to defend something that’s frankly indefensible. He also moves the goalposts of the conversation, so that his condition for winning an argument is “do nothing” while he forces opponents to jump through an increasingly severe series of hoops to back up their criticism. When they’re unwilling or unable to do that, he chalks it up to “haters gonna hate” and moves on.

For one thing, this seriously lowers the level of discourse about important subjects. It’s the method he uses to remove responsibility for his own words and puts the onus entirely on the critic. It’s why so many conversations surrounding 2 end up being so much noise; he pushes criticism back so far from the original subject that his own bubble of agreement is preserved.

It also keeps us from talking about the damage those opinions are doing in the first place. The same people who agree with 2 see how he effectively dismisses criticism as “hating” or “insubstantial” or “drama” (seriously, let’s retire that word) and parrot it back to critics elsewhere. He is simply not interested in engaging with people who have serious problems with his words, attitude and engagement. He may say he is, but the way I’ve seen him deflect and slip arguments say otherwise.

So with the most recent flare-up, where 2 talks about depression, suicide, and how we should respond to it, there are serious issues. He is giving bad advice and bad opinions to people about the most vulnerable and misunderstood people in our community. And instead of listening to the problems that people have with them, he blocks them on Twitter and reduces them to “lonely, frightened” people. There is simply no discussion with someone so invested in not listening.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about his video response to the recent criticism and how it illustrates my point. I’ll also rebut a lot of the points he brings up to the best of my ability.

6 thoughts on “My 2 Sense

  1. As a member of a community hurt by a lie 2 Propagated, even back in the 2 Sense days, I kind of feel that there are two groups of people.. those who’ve been hurt by him, and those who’ve yet to be hurt by him. The ones hurt by him seem to know he says hateful things, and the ones who’ve yet to be hurt by him seem to walk on eggshells around him and seek his validation.. probably in hope that he won’t say something hateful about them.

    When I first heard him, I liked him. When he hurt me and others in my group with a lie, and then others started piling on, parroting his lie, changing it , adjusting it, claiming it was their story and using it to REALLY hate and hurt us… then I saw that this was pretty much his modus operendi from day one.

    I didn’t like him because he was funny. I liked him because for once, someone wasn’t picking on me.

  2. I actually stopped listening to 2 sense shortly after you left the show. The new co-hosts he brought in didn’t resonate with me, and it wasn’t long before I unpacked why it didn’t work for me anymore. I liked that you had a strong viewpoint, and were willing to contradict and stand up against 2’s view. I think he needed someone to call him on his bullshit back then. I haven’t kept up with him since really, so I couldn’t say if that would help him now.

    If anything, to me he seems like half of a good comedy duo, the rampaging id that says outrageous things, and sometimes there’s some general truth to it, sometimes there’s an emotional core that comes from an honest or good intent but it’s taken to an absurd or ill considered conclusion, and sometimes it’s just the emotional equivalent to a 2 year old screaming… What that kind of output needs (from my perspective) is someone who can empathize and amplify the things that are good, temper the over emotional or absurd-extreme reactions, and give a right smack upside the head when the full on childishness comes on.

    Without a keenly precise sense of self awareness and boundary (which he does not use) you need a strong straight man to keep you in check, or you turn into something terrible…

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It’s very interesting to read. Personally I don’t really have much contact with 2. I “know” him from a few shows at Eurofurence he did alone or with Uncle Kage. I don’t know what he said back then. I didn’t feel offended but it was just not my kind of humor, so I stopped caring about him or his shows.
    However, he is a good friend of friends of mine and when I heard about the current debate I wanted to have a closer look because I care about my friends’ opinions and I’d like to trust them and their judgement.

    I’ve seen his two videos (the first one just partly because the sound was pretty bad) and read your journals. On some points I agree with him, on others I don’t, but I respect him for facing that debate instead of just saying “fuck off and don’t mail me”, just as I respect you for sharing your experience and opinion in a calm and polite way. It must be pretty hard to write that in the way you do as this is a really emotional and stressfull topic.

    I don’t agree with his opinion that nobody is responsible for other peoples feelings. In some situations that may count because you can’t know the “triggers” of everybody in the world and sooner or later everyone might hurt somebody unwillingly because things are pretty painful for person A which are pretty normal and maybe even funny for the rest of the people surrounding person B. The thing is: Feeling hurt by “normal” stuff doesn’t appear out of thin air but because someone else offended person A on purpose, probably even over a long period and this bully is very strongly responsible for person A’s feelings (and additionally never faced that responsibility and said sorry before it was too late.)

    Yes, you have the right to “just not listen”, but it needs energy to do so, sometimes much more than you can afford in this situation (e.g. if someone treats you bad regularily. Not listen 1 time.. easy. Over a year everyday.. not so easy). Especially at a younger age you have to actively learn to not care about things that hurt you or treat them in a healthy way. (e.g. if you fall down and hurt your knee, don’t ignore it but go to a doctor.) That’s why so many mental problems start to grow in the childhood. Childs are still “new” to this world and can be hurt easily, even unintentional.
    I was bullied myself back then, once by a relative I saw almost every week-end and over a longer period by class”mates”, I’ve seen over years every day. The only way to avoid that would be by sticking the fingers in your ears and sing “lalala” loud enough. (Probably even tried that when facing this relative.) You can go away? To where? Driving home alone at an age of 3? Skipping school and ruining your not-even-started-career? I tried to hid from these persons as best as possible but I simply couldn’t often enough. Sure, online bullying is a bit more abstract, because “you could just close the browser” but instead of the internet usage in 1990 or 2000 internet and social media has become a large part on everybodys life and avoiding it sometimes isn’t an option. (Aside from that many people who are bullying sb. online actually do know this person from school or the neighbourhood and are still “there” if you shut down your computer.)

    However, even with this experience I can understand why 2 and other people who share this opinion think that way. I’m have several mental and physical health issues and when telling sb. close about it because I want them to understand it, I learned one thing: They can’t. No matter what you say, no matter how hard they try: You can’t really understand how it is to be in someone elses situation if you’ve never been in it.
    It doesn’t even have to be about something negative. I don’t know how the hell it can make fun to ride on an (actual, not metaphorical) rollercoaster. A friend of mine tried to explain it to me, both emotional and biological and she did that very well and I got the idea but I never truly will understand how it feels to actually ride that thing – and if it would be fun or not – until I would do it.
    And it’s the same with health issues or feelings. You don’t know how it feels to really love or to lose a dear pet if you’ve never been in love before or ever cared for a pet. You don’t know if you find chocolate tasty if you’ve never eaten chocolate.

    That’s why there even exists sentences like “I don’t see your problem to get up in the morning. I do it every day and it’s no big deal.” They really don’t see the problem. The thing is: It still is a problem for some people and it doesn’t go away if enough people tend to ignore it. This behaviour rather makes things worse. So if they understand it or not: With a quite large number of people with mental health issues around they have to deal with it anyway. If I accidently say something offending and people are telling me I offended them, I say sorry. Not because I caused their issue at the first place because I’m not one of their bullies (or whatever caused it) but because I know how it feels if sb. steps on your triggers and how it hurts what I just did, even unintentional.
    If 2 says the same hurtful (but for normal people probably harmless) thing in his show my relative told me when I was a kid, he’s not responsible for me feeling bad, because he is not this relative. But denying he has anything to do with me feeling bad isn’t entirely correct either, even if his intention was telling a joke and not hurting someone.

    Mental healthy or not: You can’t avoid to step in sb. trigger sooner or later and if you stop talking because it might offened someone in some way, you’re heading into a very lonely and unhealthy life. But before saying something like that suicide comment 2 said (even with context) you should inform yourself of what’s really behind this and what makes people to write they are going to kill themselves after “just some people on the internet” bullied them for weeks and if it’s really a good idea to make fun about it. Killing yourself is a really desperate kind of action and even if people say it they just want to make people guilty: In my experience most suicidal people just want to exit their painful situation and don’t see any other way to do so. Nobody kills himself only because he want to hurt other people with that but because he feels trapped in this situation.

  4. The kind of personality being described here is pretty common in relatively fringe subcultures like furry; it’s just that most of them aren’t performers, and most aren’t well-known. The refusal to engage in real communication and decision to live within a solipsistic bubble is made easier when one can surround themselves with, basically, a fantasy world. When this attitude towards reality is combined with an aggressive, dominating, and attention-seeking personality, a person can grow into a monster with shocking ease.

    These folks more often than not are surrounded by fans. To echo what another commentator said, people who are glad the big monster is being mean towards other people and not themselves. (Better to throw in with the predator than be the prey.) And yes, a huge problem with these situations is that it is useless to approach the “monster” directly. Once it grows large, the beast cannot be tamed – it can only be starved. It can be very saddening to see a community under the sway of a beastly leader or icon (welcome, kids, to real life – politics, the dynamics of groups, and the slippery nature of truth.)

    In the very long run, these things tend to sort themselves out – such predatory social beasts by their nature are a fixed point. Doomed to prowl and encircle the plot of territory they’ve staked out and control everyone who wanders onto it. Eventually, life and society moves on without them, leaving them to be either forgotten or remembered bitterly by the people they harmed.

    The frustrating part for everyone is watching the collateral damage rack up along the way.

  5. I realize I’m late into the fray of things but coming to acknowledge all of what’s going on or what has happened. It has sent me into quite a breezy rush of waking up, that feeling you get when you just know and feel something has changed over something you thought what was. In this case, I used to be an avid and religious listener of 2 Sense, that started fairly late into the show’s life, about 2008 before it dipped into a whole year of a hiatus.

    But alas when during it’s downtime, I did take a listen over the archives hosted over the years. I’m a type of person who generally draws blanks in what to think off the cuff and have yet a concrete identity of my own. So, after hearing all of the rants, the shows and what little else I follow 2 has created. I actually ended up adopting his style of articulation with opinions and point of view into my own. I have ran with this for 7 years since then.

    In some cases, it has helped me be a better person but I’m starting to realize now that it’s also have turned me upside down. To the point where I’m finding myself doing damage control in a lot more situations I can handle, that has spanned in the same number of years since I’ve adopted this style. I’m finding myself in the same exact predicaments 2 himself is finding in that situation he got himself in. My arguments were baseless with minimum to no evidence to support them and it was basically a “take it or deal with it, if not deal with it, don’t read and listen to it.” ideal.

    Eventually, it becomes unhealthy for you to think, speak and believe into that. I can’t really put my finger down on it now on just how much that way of expressing yourself and opening yourself up as has done considerable damage. It can damage your PR with friends, it can damage your credibility and confuse people into circles from finding where you’re firm with.

    Do I believe 2 is a truly evil person with no morals? No, I don’t. But, I need to understand and now am learning the repercussions of what it’s like when you try to stylize your way of thinking around someone’s other way of thinking that you can’t handle. I don’t know how 2 does it, oh wait, I think he does and it’s in the form of an alcoholic beverage as well as denial.

    Furthermore, you can’t really deceive the community from trying to differentiate how you are on a entertainment scale compared to how you are on a personal scale. When, from my observations of 2, he has trouble with this considering there has been numerous points where I found him saying and expressing feelings and opinions that are just exactly the same. Only differences is how he words them and the levels of articulating he puts them in.

    So, I’m just finding myself divorcing 2’s ideology and probably the subconscious level of worship I have stacked upon myself over the years towards his media. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but I really want off this chaotic and toxic forms of thinking to exchange for a more broadened and open-minded approaches.

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